HC Deb 19 February 1985 vol 73 c847
6. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much was spent per pupil at secondary schools in England in real terms in 1979 and in the most recent year for which figures are available.

Mr. Dunn

Local education authorities in England spent an average of £850 per secondary pupil in 1979–80 and £945 in 1982–83, the latest year for which firm figures are available. Both figures are at 1982–83 prices.

Mr. Knox

Do these figures not make nonsense of the Opposition's claims about education cuts? Does my hon. Friend think that the increase in expenditure per secondary school pupil has been accompanied by an improvement in standards?

Mr. Dunn

I am pleased to tell the House that under this Government since 1979 spending per child per year on education has increased in real terms, allowing for inflation. Expenditure per child is at an all-time record. We have not cut spending per child, but have increased it. Much of that increase has gone on improving the pupil-teacher ratio to another all-time record. What matters is how effectively we spend the available money and the standards that are achieved.

Mr. Eastham

Is the Minister not deceiving himself and possibly deceiving the House when he tries to pretend that things are improving under the present regime? May I remind him that with high unemployment and poverty there are greater demands for free school meals and necessary clothing? Is he aware that last year the cost of books went up by 15 per cent. and the cost of paper by 18 per cent.? In view of all that, how can we be improving education?

Mr. Dunn

I have to remind the hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's Inspectorate made it clear in its reports on the effects upon education provision of local education authority expenditure policies that there is no simple relationship between expenditure on the one hand and the quality of education and the achievement of pupils on the other. The major message is that better use could be made of available resources, given more efficient management at the level of local education authority and school alike.